The Rise of the Ad-Blocker and Why Ads Need to Slim Down

Trends
Katie Young / March 08, 2017

It’s been a tough couple of months for ad tech. First, some of the world’s biggest brands were accused of inadvertently supporting extremism through their advertising, and now Ad Lightning’s latest Ad Quality Report for Publishers has found that over 40% of online ads are larger than the industry standards, slowing down websites and harmfully impacting viewability. In the face of this, it’s hardly surprising that more and more consumers are turning to ad-blockers to curb their frustrations.

The Problem with Large Ads

Our research shows that half of online adults are now blocking ads on their mobiles or desktops – almost double the number reported at the beginning of 2015.

As the industry tries to tackle this, some high-profile websites are making real efforts to reduce or improve their online ad offerings. Business Insider is one brand leading the way, now only guaranteeing ads that stay within the limits of acceptable data, but many others are yet to make any significant changes.

Large, poor-quality ads reflect badly on publishers, but for programmatic ads, they have little control; a creative agency might pack more into an ad to make it animated, and then tech partners will pile on tracking scripts. With everyone skirting the rules, it’s easy to see how an ad can become so heavy that it weighs down a site.

Google recently reported that the average load time for mobile sites has slowed down to 19 seconds over 3G connections, while according to Ad Lightning’s research, ads as large as 4MB are being served to mobile browsers.

The Truth Behind the Ad-Blocking Trend

Crucially, this is a key motivation behind ad-blocking. When asked why they block ads, one in three consumers say it’s to speed up page-load times, while one in five say they want to preserve data on their phones. The issue of ads eating into data allowances is especially important for developing markets, where people are often reliant on expensive and slow mobile connections. Here, ad-blockers have become vital for reducing load-times and data spend.

Beyond this, there’s also the issue that the ads served are too often of poor-quality, intrusive and irrelevant. Indeed, when we look at ad-blocking motivations, the key finding is that people are frustrated with advertising – believing that ads are annoying or irrelevant, take up too much space, or that there are too many of them.

Poor user experience is what lies at the heart of this issue – something that has undoubtedly worsened over time as more and more consumers are getting online via mobiles, with smaller and more easily invaded screens.

This further highlights the need for brands, publishers and agencies to turn more towards interest-led storytelling using reliable insights to drive marketing that works.

Why It’s Time for Ads to Slim Down

In the interests of consumers, publishers and advertisers, there is an urgent need for ads to be slimmed down. If pages load slowly, internet users tend to veer away from that site or turn to ad-blocking – meaning fewer ad impressions and disruptions to a publisher’s revenue.

Both Google and Facebook have taken note of how people are quick to bounce when a site is slow to load. In response, Facebook built its Instant Articles and Google now prioritizes websites that run faster.

The reality is that, for too long, consumers have been inundated with intrusive ads that have occupied every pixel of spare space, often with little or no effort to optimize for the screen in question. While some individuals will always have reservations about receiving targeted or personalized messages, among current ad-blockers at least, one solution for advertisers to avoid this growing trend is to serve up higher quality, lighter and more relevant ads, tailored to their users.

This kind of audience-centric targeting is absolutely crucial for today’s digital market, and something that hinges on accurate consumer profiling beyond simple demographics.

Want to know more? Download our free ad-blocking infographic for a closer look at what’s driving the trend.